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Head of European Council says EU must be ready for new members by 2030

FILE PHOTO: European flags fly outside the European Commission headquarters in Brussels,

BELGRADE (Reuters) -The European Union must be ready to admit new member states by 2030, European Council President Charles Michel told a forum in the Slovenian lake resort of Bled on Monday.

"I believe we must be ready by 2030 to enlarge," Michel said. "This is ambitious, but necessary. It shows that we are serious."

The six Western Balkan states - Albania, Bosnia, Kosovo Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia - are at different stages in the process of joining the bloc.

Last year Moldova and Ukraine were given candidate status. Georgia is waiting to receive that status as well.

Michel said that, in order to join the bloc, future member states would have to implement reforms to ensure independent judiciary, fight organised crime and corruption and align their foreign policy with EU member states.

He urged all aspirants to resolve their bilateral conflicts before they join the European Union.

"You need to make sure that past conflicts are not imported into the EU," he said. Michel added that the European Council would discuss enlargement at its next meeting.

He said the European Commission's enlargement package, which is expected in October, could give further details of the progressive integration that could enable future members to feel the benefits of fully participating in some EU institutions and policies before formally becoming a member of the bloc.

Michel said that the EU would need to implement some reforms as well to be ready for enlargement.

(Reporting by Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Alex Richardson)